A sunbathing Swede from 1939. Photo: Peter Segemark/Nordiska museet
clothes

How Swedish men learnt to uncover at the beach

"It was not ok for men to show the body"
5:19 min

Although Sweden is still in some people's eyes famous as a country where there's a lot of topless bathing going on in the summer, just a couple of generations ago Swedish men were covering up their whole body on the beach. And apparently these days shyness is coming back, with fewer wanting to get naked in the public saunas, for example.

Researcher Marianne Larsson has just opened an exhibition based on her work, into men in swimming costumes, and the differing view of the male body, through time.

Stockholm's Nordic Museum is the home of of exhibitions about the full sweep of Sweden's cultural heritage. And right it holds a lot of swimming costumes, laid out in glass cases. Starting in the early 19th century the costumes start out very long, get small, almost disappear, and then grow again.

Marianne Larsson says that this is all about the way people saw the male body - and how much of it was appropriate to show.

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